The Lonestar State of Mind: Looking Back at December to Dismember
Welcome again, Humanoids, to another edition of the Lonestar State of Mind and the second in our series of PPV spotlights. Today we’re going deep into the 2006-era WWE by examining December to Dismember, which you either remember because you were there or because you watch Botchamania on a regular basis. The WWE certainly isn’t going to talk about it. Let’s find out why.
Interesting Note: the Sandman didn’t actually have a match advertised for the PPV despite being on the poster, but then again nobody else did either. For some reason the WWE decided that they really only needed to advertise two matches on this ECW brand PPV, a six-way Extreme Elimination Chamber main event and a tag team match between the Hardys and MNM, though even that one was only announced six days before the show. Also working against December to Dismember was the fact that it was stuck between two other PPVs, airing only a week after Survivor Series and two weeks before Armageddon. Why in the blue hell would the WWE make decisions that in all probability would cripple their own PPV and therefore cost them money? I have no idea. There are theories though. I’ve heard it said that McMahon wanted to free the WWE from the hassle of building so many feuds and advertising so many matches for their PPVs and decided to test that concept out with this “low stakes” show and its Extreme Elimination Chamber Match, something that was supposed to sell itself. Of course, that sounds like rampant internet speculation. So does the theory of Vince and probably Stephanie wanting to set up Paul Heyman for failure and therefore ruin him. None of it makes sense and yet neither does a PPV with only two advertised matches. To give an analogy, it’s kind of like going into a McDonald’s that only sells “generic meat meal”. Would you order the food? Hell no, you’d turn around and leave.
As I’ve hinted at before, I watched PPVs live for several years in college at a sports-bar in central Ohio. I had to be pretty early and pretty ruthless when I went because the place was always filled to the brim with loud and excited WWE fans. Frankly, there wasn’t much else to do in the city, so on Sunday nights it was the sports-bar or nothin’ for a lot of people. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the place the night of December to Dismember and found it absolutely, comically empty. “Are you guys not showing the pay-per-view?” I asked. Apparently they still were. I guess nobody told the WWE fans. Instead of fighting for a single chair near the bar or an awkward corner seat I stretched out at a table on the lower level and played my game boy advance while I waited for the PPV to start in the eerily quiet sports-bar. That was my first sign that the PPV wasn’t going to do well.
Besides the general apathy of the live crowd for unannounced matches that had little to no story going into the PPV, the thing that really stood out about the show was how different the women of the WWE were allowed to look in late 2006. There were four ladies involved in the show: Melina, Kelly Kelly, Trinity, and Ariel, and each was allowed to look incredibly attractive. Unlike today’s WWE that “hotness” was far more sexual in nature and definitely not PG. Melina and Ariel especially would be way too much for today’s virgin camera lenses. I think we all know why Melina pushed the PG-13 rating, but for her part Arial must have exposed either her sizable boobs or her ass in at least 72% of her match. It was…um….a little distracting.
The Hardy Boyz vs MNM:
Lord have mercy, Melina was hot. And crazy. But mostly hot. Annnnnnnyway, I was a fan of all four participants in this match and welcomed their getting a spot on this PPV despite not really being a part of ECW. Jeff Hardy and Johnny Nitro had been feuding over the IC championship at the time and somehow their feud grew to involve their long-time tag team partners. Joey Mercury, the less famous part of MNM, actually returned only a week before this PPV after missing six months of work to undergo drug rehabilitation. Considering who else is in this match its weird to think of him as being the drug addict.
This match could be considered fan service because it’s one of those bouts where it seems like the wrestlers got together and decided to just put in as many cool spots as they could. It certainly plays out like that’s what happened, with a beginning full of classic Hardy moves, a middle where MNM dominate to a fairly quiet reaction, and an ending sequence with crazy spots and great audience approval. The match really kicked into high gear when Nitro accidentally drop-kicked Melina off the apron and never slowed down, fooling the audience with a couple of false finishes. In the end, MNM tried to set up a super snap-shot (elevated DDT off the top turnbuckle!) only for the Hardys to fight out and hit a double super-cutter, double swanton bomb combination for the win. It’s still cool to see all the awesome Hardy Boys moves but even back then I thought the match went a little long. They started to lose the crowd a bit during the middle section with MNM on offense, indicating a bit of fatigue in what had been a hot crowd. Of course, we would find out why this match was so long by the end of the night……
Balls Mahoney vs Matt Striker in a “Striker’s Rules” match:
For the record, “Striker’s Rules” are no eye-gouging, no hair-pulling, no moves off the top rope (what is this, Bill Watt’s WCW?) and no foul language. Striker explained just that in a promo before the match. Yeah it’s filler but Striker presents a good anti-thesis of what the fans want ECW to be, so he’s a pretty entertaining heel in that regard.
Balls Mahoney, meanwhile, looks like Captain Caveman (or maybe even Hong Kong Fuey) and is mainly known in the WWE for being the guy whose fans shout “Balls” when he punches people. The match they have is simple, mainly a grappling bout between two people that aren’t necessarily known for being grapplers. It’s like when Big Show and Kane had that random technical wrestling bout that one time on Raw; yeah they can do it, but why? Striker and Mahoney impress a little with their wrestling abilities and mercifully the match is kept short. After working on Mahoney’s arm the entire match, Striker falls victim to a sit-out spinebuster and Balls wins.
Sabu is Extreme…..Sabu is injured:
In between matches a backstage vignette airs wherein the camera finds Sabu, one of the participants in the main event and ECW Original, mind you, knocked out on the floor with medics attending to him. It’s made pretty clear that Sabu isn’t going to make it to the Elimination Chamber match. The live crowd audibly chants “Bullshit, Bullshit!”
Elijah Burke and Slyvester Terkay vs The FBI with Trinity:
That’s what Trinity looks like, btw. You’re welcome. Edit: Or not. Looks like the big WWE doesn't like me using its pictures.....great.
Another time-killing promo, this time from Elijah Burke, is delivered before the match. The FBI are jobbers…..and act like it. Burke and Terkay beat the FBI after Burke uses a move better known in TNA as Jeff Jerrett’s Stroke, which happens to be his finisher. Terkay hits a muscle buster after the match as well. Why did these two use well known TNA finishers on this PPV? I have no idea.
Daivari with the Great Khali vs Tommy Dreamer:
I don’t even remember Daivari or Khali being on ECW, but I looked it up and apparently they were for a few months. And to head this question off at the pass (and because I asked it myself) no the WWE did not just put Khali and Daivari together because they couldn’t tell their races apart. Daivari actually managed several different heels with a variety of racial makeups during his time in the WWE, including Kurt Angle and Mark Henry.
Having said that, wow this match is boring. Khali gets ejected from ringside after pulling down the ropes on a running Tommy Dreamer and Daivari works his way through snooze-worthy offense. Why the hell is this on PPV? The crowd finally wakes up a bit when Tommy sets up and hits his hesitation dropkick but Daivari counters a DDT attempt into a rollup for the win. Yes, Tommy Dreamer, the embodiment of ECW, just lost a pointless match on an ECW PPV to fucking Daivari.
After the match Khali chokebombs Tommy on the stage. That would have been a great way for the heel Daivari to get his heat back after losing to Dreamer…….but he didn’t. He won. Dreamer ends up crawling to the back to some applause from the audience.
Sabu is Extreme….Sabu is Injured…..here’s his replacement:
Backstage Paul Heyman walks into a locker room and finds Hardcore Holly. Yep, Hardcore Holly ends up being Sabu’s replacement in the Extreme Rules Elimination Chamber match. So if you’re keeping score, that’s rising star and WWECW original C M Punk, former champion and ECW original RVD, and WWE castoffs Test, Big Show, Bobby Lashley and now Hardcore Holly in the main event. The ECW fans will accept that….right?
Mike Knox and Kelly Kelly vs Kevin Thorn and Ariel in an intergender tag-team match:
Kelly Kelly wasn’t always a characterless blond bimbo. She actually debuted in WWECW as an exhibitionist who would get very close to revealing her breasts to the ECW fans before Mike Knox, her jealous boyfriend, came out, covered her up and took her backstage. I thought it was a brilliant act, giving two different people characterization and making us love or hate them accordingly. Kelly Kelly also had an on-screen crush on C M Punk, something Knox was understandably not fond of. Before this match Kelly grabbed the microphone from a young Justin Roberts and wished Punk luck in the main event. The crowd responded with “C M Punk, C M Punk” chants. Yeah, Punk was always destined for greatness.
On the other side of the ring for this one was Kevin Thorn and Ariel, two wrestlers described as “followers of Vampirism” but not necessarily vampires. I thought that was an interesting distinction and rather enjoyed Ariel’s usual pre-match ritual.
Don’t ya just wanna take her home to Mom?
The match itself is more of a storyline than a match, which is probably a good idea considering there was only one face involved in it. After some back and forth between Thorn and Knox, Ariel tags herself in, which means Kelly Kelly has to wrestle. Kelly wasn’t really known as a wrestler at the time (and still isn’t, ZING!) so she was very reluctant to get in the ring. Ariel proceeds to kick her ass and when Kelly attempts to tag out Knox leaves her high and dry. That’s a hell of a way to break up with somebody! Ariel finishes off Kelly with a modified STO and gets the pinfall by sitting on Kelly Kelly’s face. Yowza.
After the match Ariel feels like beating up on Kelly some more and the Sandman decides to save her…….after his full crowd entrance complete with beer bath of course. Sandman wails away on Thorn with his Singapore cane and gets a great reaction from the crowd.
The Extreme Elimination Chamber Match:
It’s an elimination chamber match wherein the pods are each stuffed with a weapon, specifically a chair, a crowbar, a table, and a barbed-wire baseball bat. The participants are CM Punk, Rob Van Dam, The Big Show, Test, Hardcore Holly, and Bobby Lashley. Punk had debuted on ECW in July and at the time was undefeated in singles competition and definitely a star on the rise. Rob Van Dam was the former WWE and ECW champion who in real life screwed it all up by getting busted with Sabu for drug possession by a highway patrolman that same summer. RVD then dropped his titles to Edge and Big Show respectively and in short order. Kay-fabe wise RVD got screwed out of the title by Big Show and Paul Heyman and this was his chance to get his title back. Test arrived in ECW after some time away from the WWE, at about the time Punk debuted, and was quite impressive with a more aggressive demeanor than his last run and with shortened hair. Test and the previously mentioned Hardcore Holly were also working together with Paul Heyman and the Big Show, creating quite the opposing force. Bobby Lashley moved to ECW two weeks before the PPV after being strongly pushed on Smackdown and being featured in the MITB ladder match at Wrestlemania 22. So yes, Lashley had been a part of ECW for only a couple weeks.
Before the match, Paul Heyman came out for a promo with his riot squad-like faceless goons to further sell the Elimination Chamber match, though at this point it’s way too little, way too late. Paul talks like a trained dolphin does flips, but even he is killing time and he knows it. Furthermore he knows that the crowd will shit all over this match and that he is going to be blamed for it. And so the accused is led to the gallows…..
Big Show is out first and gets the pod with the barbed-wire baseball bat. That’s not good for anyone else in this match, is it? CM Punk is out next, looking pumped and ready for the biggest match yet of his WWE career. Being the guy that he is, Punk decides to berate the Big Show while he’s stuck inside his cell. His weapon will be the steel chair, that Swiss army knife of the wrestling world. Test is out third and enters the pod with the crowbar. Lashley is entrant number four and gets the pod with the table. Big Show growls at him in his pod, probably because he’s mistaking him for Brock Lesnar.
That means RVD and Hardcore Holly will start the match, which isn’t a bad choice; about two months earlier on an episode of ECW they had an “Extreme Rules” match where Holly received a bad gash on his back during a table spot, resulting in this:
The blood actually started welling, then dripping down Holly’s back but he finished the match like a champ anyway. It’s probably one of the only times I’ve ever respected Bob Holly.
The first five minutes pass without much occurring of note. RVD hits rolling thunder over the top rope and onto Hardcore Holly on the outside metal. Holly answers by suplexing RVD back into the ring. Other than that it’s pretty basic stuff. The countdown clock begins and the fans get what they want with C M Punk entering the match. The chair that enters with him really gets the crowd going and soon it becomes acquainted with each man’s forehead. Not chair shots though, chair throws. Ouch. RVD monkey-flips Punk so that his kidneys whack the chair lying on the mat. Punk recreates a classic ECW spot by leg-dropping RVD’s face onto the chair. Pointsfor the Jerry Lynn reference. Punk springboards to dropkick Holly and retrieves RVD, who’s already busted open. Punk doesn’t help the situation by throwing RVD head first into the chair set up in the corner between the turnbuckles. Punk follows that up by kicking the leg of the chair to snap it around RVD’s head! Brutal. Punk flies into Holly’s arms, and Holly ends up swinging him head-first into the side of the cage like he was a younger, more talented wrestler.
“C M Punk” chants break out as Holly takes it to Punk. Superplex to Punk from what Taz describes as the Tippy-Top Rope. “RVD” chants after Van Dam tries to steal a cover on Punk. Five more minutes have passed and Test enters the match, crowbar in hand.
Punk eats a crowbar shot to the ribs and RVD simply gets the hook ground into his quite bloody forehead. Yuck. Punk decides he’s had enough after a crowbar choke and gives Test a stunner using the ropes. Oh snap, RVD has a chair. Chair shots for everyone, and an extra special skateboard dropkick for Punk’s face. That’s a chair-assisted corner dropkick, people. Punk flops out into the middle of ring, which is the last place you should seek shelter when fighting RVD. Rob hops up top and hits a beautiful five-star frog splash to eliminate C M Punk.
I remember being surprised that Punk was the first to be eliminated. The crowd doesn’t seem too sure what to think. Test gets up and teases an attack on RVD only to nail Hardcore Holly with a big boot to….eliminate him? Holly seemed to get the shoulder up before three, but the ref kicks him out anyway. The fight continues with RVD attacking Test with a karate kick off the top rope. RVD climbs up the turnbuckle in Big Show’s corner, flicks him off, then decides he’s gonna jump off Big Show’s pod. This is not a good idea, since Big Show simply grabs RVD’s legs through the chains at the top of his pod. Test walks over and nails the trapped RVD with a chair repeatedly, then yanks the man off the top of pod and all the way to the mat. Ouch. Test places the chair on RVD’s face and climbs up the turnbuckle. No, he’s going onto the pod. Test launches all 6’ 6’’ and 280 some pounds of his body onto RVD with elbow drop that may or may not have actually been very painful looking seated senton. Test pins RVD and he’s done.
2006 Lonestar: “Wow that was awesome! Holy Shit, what a move! Wait. Wait a minute. RVD is eliminated? What the fuu…….Lashley is winning this match, isn’t he? That’s lame.”
In an instant I knew exactly where this match was heading and hated the obvious end result so very, very much. Lashley was fine, I guess, but he wasn’t an ECW wrestler, wasn’t a wrestler that embodied the spirit of ECW (like so many other young men and women to appear in WWECW), and above all else wasn’t even on the fucking brand until two weeks before this PPV. Lashley winning this title meant the WWE was giving the ECW belt and the ECW brand to another one of Vince’s golden boys and crapping all over everything that ever remotely was considered ECW.
Needless to say, the live crowd was not happy with RVD’s elimination and what that meant. I believe their exact quote was “BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT!” followed closely by “TNA, TNA, TNA” and “WHERE’S OUR REFUNDS!?”.
The buzzer sounds again and Lashley is supposed to enter the match but Heyman’s goons beat up the ref so nobody can unlock him. Lashley then, get this, grabs his table and uses it to break a hole in the “metal” chains above his pod.
I know I’ve used this picture before. This moment in WWE history is so dumb I have to use an image equally as powerful. A wooden table isn’t going to break through a cross-crossing network of metal chain for more reasons than I care to discuss in this column, even if the person wielding it looks more like a Battletoad than a human being. Lashley climbs through his hole in logic and hits Test with a flying clothesline. Lashley proceeds to kicks Test’s ass six ways to Sunday and pins him after a spear.
With a minute left on the timer Lashley is all alone in the ring and Big Show in his cell. Lashley kills time by throwing random weapons at Big Show’s cell, though he’s sure to arm himself with a chair for when Big Show is released. Show finally exits his cell with his barbed-wire bat in tow. More “TNA” chants. Show wails away on Lashley with the bat but Bobby is sure to block each blow with his steel chair. When the barbed-wire bat gets stuck in the side of the cage, Lashley uses the opening to attack Big Show. Lashley does his face pose and gets booed by a good amount of the crowd. Lashley shoves Show through a pod and the camera catches the fact that Show is bleeding from his head. Show tosses Lashley back into the ring and goes for the Chokeslam. Lashley reverses into a DDT. Lashley escapes from a powerslam and hits the spear to win the match andthe ECW Championship.
December to Dismember had something like 90,000 buys. To give that some perspective, Survivor Series the week before had 400,000 buys and Armageddon had like 250,000. Or, if you want to be dramatic, December to Dismember was the worst selling WWE PPV of all time. Heads rolled after this one and almost immediately Paul Heyman was sent packing. In the years after the PPV we’ve learned that Heyman’s influence over December to Dismember’s booking was limited and that he disagreed quite a bit with McMahon’s vision for the main event. Heyman was against Lashley’s winning the ECW Championship for obvious reasons and also found it silly that Sabu was to be replaced by Hardcore Holly. Heyman also had an idea for Punk to eliminate the Big Show early in the match by submission, putting over Punk huge and guaranteeing a new champion. Punk also voiced his opinion to the chairman concerning the quality of the main event’s finish and consequentially ended up in the doghouse for the first time in his WWE career; shortly after the PPV Hardcore Holly snapped Punks winning streak. Apparently there were some backstage that felt Hardcore Holly’s long-term potential outweighed that of C M Punk. I wish I were kidding.
Big Show would put Lashley over one more time before disappearing from the WWE for about a year. Test was built up for a match with Lashley at the Royal Rumble and left the company soon afterwards. RVD was gone by mid-2007. Lashley went on to wrestle in the Billionaire Hair vs Hair match at Mania 23, one of the PPVs big matches, against Umaga. Lashley feuded against Vince McMahon afterwards and was later drafted to Raw, wrestling John Cena and Mr. Kennedy before taking a break to heal an injury. Before he could return from and become a true main event player in the WWE, Lashley left under questionable circumstances. Rumor has it there were issues with some members of WWE creative and possible racism.
As a brand ECW was never the same after December to Dismember, as all pretense about this form of ECW being very “extreme” or even following in the same spirit as the original ECW quickly faded away. ECW originals like RVD, Sabu, the Sandman, the FBI and eventually Balls Mahoney started dropping like flies, either getting moved to other shows or released all together. ECW became a place for new talent to grow or for established talent from other WWE shows to reinvent themselves, which the show became quite successful at doing.
While last month we looked at how the 2005 edition of the Royal Rumble was successful, we have to notice here how December to Dismember failed as both a PPV and as a vehicle to promote its wrestlers into bigger and more profitable stars. Lashley, being booked as the only wrestler in the main event to be viewed as successful, ended up being the only wrestler to become a success because of this PPV. Lashley’s title reign was a further push of his character, propelling him to the match at Mania and beyond. Unfortunately, Lashley’s potential was never achieved because he left the WWE before really breaking through and becoming another of Vince’s mega-faces. Therefore his title win was a giant waste of time. Punk ended up being the only person in the main event to really become a big deal in the WWE long-term, but this PPV actually hurt his career a bit instead of helping it.
To put it bluntly, December to Dismember was the beginning of the end for the WWECW brand, the end of Paul Heyman’s tenure in the WWE, the next step in a push for a wrestler that was given the ball and dropped it, and the first hurdle in C M Punk’s path towards potential greatness. It was not a success, even though withsome effort it could have been.